Leeds Rhinos ready for a fight to defend Women's Challenge Cup title - Aimee Staveley predicts semi-final thriller against St Helens
Two of rugby league’s most in-form teams, at any level, will go head to head on Saturday when holders Leeds Rhinos meet St Helens in a Betfred Women’s Challenge Cup semi-final.
Both sides have won their opening four games this year, with Rhinos scoring 284 points and conceding 22, while Saints’ aggregate is 274-16.
Forward Aimee Staveley was in the Leeds side which won the competition in 2018 and 2019, having also played in Bradford Bulls’ victorious 2017 team.
“For both sides, with it being a massive game, we’ve got everything to lose,” she said.
“With us having the title, I suppose we have more to lose than anybody, but we are all for fighting and defending our title.”
Leeds have the experience, but will need to be at their absolute best.
Staveley warned: “They are such a good team.
"If there was any other team I’d compare to us, it would be Saints.
"They’ve recruited well, they’ve got Carrie Roberts and Amy Hardcastle who have been massive plusses for them, but it all depends on the day - who turns up and who performs.
“That showed with Castleford in 2019; they were amazing, but when it came to the Challenge Cup and the Grand Final we pipped them to the post.”
The semi-final, behind closed doors at York’s new LNER Community Stadium (3pm), is a massive step up in class for both sides, but Staveley insists Rhinos’ huge wins this year haven’t been because the opposition was poor.
“The scorelines have reflected just how hard we work,” she said.
“We are not letting up or letting our standards drop, we are still completing and trying to play to the best of our abilities.
“I think some scorelines don’t reflect the game and the physicality of it, but they reflect that we aren’t taking our foot off the pedal, we are trying to go out and maximise it.”
She also feels the number of young players progressing through Rhinos’ youth system stands them in good stead, not just for this season, but beyond.
“They have just made our team stronger, because they are so talented,” she added.
“It keeps everybody on their toes.”
Castleford Tigers meet York City Knights in Saturday's other semi-final, at the same venue (noon).
It will be the sides' first meeting since Tigers' former coach Lindsay Anfield joined Knights as director of women's rugby.
Five of Tigers' England internationals - Grace Field, Kelsey Gentles, Rhiannion Marshall, Sinead Peach and Tamzin Renouf - have now joined her at York.
Both semi-finals will be streamed live by BBC Sport on their red button and iplayer.
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